Strike against price hike hits life

Normal life was hit hard in West Bengal, Kerala, Tripura and parts of Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu as activists of 13 opposition parties staged a 12-hour nationwide strike to denounce the government over rising food prices.

The protests were called by 13 opposition parties including the Left Front, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and AIADMK.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance stayed away from the event.

Air, train and road transport services were disrupted in Kolkata and Lucknow while the streets of Thiruvananthapuram were deserted because of the closure of schools and businesses.

In Lucknow, protesters marched towards the state assembly, targeting state-run buses and trains. This apart, several flights and train services had to be cancelled in Kolkata.

The governments in West Bengal and Kerala adopted a lenient stand towards their employees. While no public holiday was declared, the two governments decided to treat absence by their employees as casual leave.

In Allahabad, Samajwadi Party supporters shouted slogans against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) state government.

The BSP, while condemning rising prices, is not taking part in the strike.

Samajwadi Party activists stopped the Ganga Gomti train near the Prayag railway station in Allahabad, about 200 km from Lucknow, and also tried to damage a rail track and destroy public property near a prominent college.

Around 50 of them have been arrested, said Superintendent of Police S.S. Bhaghel.

The strike also crippled life in Orissa as rail and vehicular traffic came to a halt. Train services were affected as hundreds of protesters squatted on railway tracks.

Long distance trains remained stranded at several stations. Bus services were also impacted.

In Left-ruled Tripura, most markets, shops and business establishments, government offices, educational institutions, banks and financial institutions were closed. Roads were deserted and rail services between Tripura and the rest of the country were disrupted.

"The strike is peaceful," police spokesman Nepal Das told IANS.

In Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, the protest evoked a mixed response.

The Road Transport Corp (RTC) stopped plying of buses in several places across Andhra Pradesh as opposition workers demonstrated outside bus depots and staged road blockades, police said.

Shops and business establishments in some towns were partially closed. Life in Hyderabad was largely unaffected as buses plied while shops and business establishments functioned as usual.

While life was largely unaffected in Tamil Nadu, shops in a few districts such as Karur, Gobichettypalayam and Myiladuthurai were closed.

Production in textile units in Karur and Tirupur were hit as workers did not turn up for work.

Congress-ruled Maharashtra was not impacted. Trains, BEST buses and private carriers plied as usual. "Schools, colleges and offices, are all working today," said a police officer in Mumbai.

The opposition parties are demanding a rollback in the prices of fuels, fertilisers and other commodities in a bid to bring down food prices that have soared in recent months.(IANS)

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